Postpartum depression is more prevalent than we realize. Research says that one out of five new mothers deals with some degree of it. Postpartum depression is common and normal. It is very treatable. It is OK to talk about it.
Many times the birth process and then the nursing and caring for their baby is not quite what the mother imagined. Reality rarely turns out like the envisioned picture in mom’s head during pregnancy. She could be struggling with feelings of disappointment. Life changes dramatically when the new baby arrives. Caring for a baby is non-stop for 24 hours a day, every day.
Some mothers are afraid to admit they feel sad or discouraged or inadequate following the birth of their baby. They think everyone expects them to be happy. It can feel like a huge burden to deal with those feelings while presenting a happy face to others.
Following the birth of a baby, the mother’s body goes through many adjustments. The mother is tired from the birth process and the physical job to care for the baby. Changing hormone levels affect emotions also. Add the lack of sleep at night and maybe a lack of sunshine from gloomy weather, especially during the winter months, to a new mother’s hormone changes and you have a recipe for depression.
Some, but not all of the symptoms of postpartum depression are:
becoming easily frustrated
low or no energy
inability to be comforted
If mom is having thoughts of hurting herself or the baby: seek help immediately.
Treatment for mild postpartum depression:
1.) Exposure to sunlight improves mild postpartum depression. A walk around the block improves the mood of a tired new mom. Exposing the eyes to daylight, even on a cloudy day, helps reset the body’s clock. It affects the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This will help the baby and mom sleep better.
2) Newborn sleep is disorganized and changes every day during the first twelve weeks. Between the short sleep times and the frequent feedings, it is challenging for mom to get the rest she needs. Encourage family members or friends to give mom an opportunity to sleep. It is much easier for her to cope when rested.
3) Support is beneficial to new moms. There is a significant decrease in postpartum depression if the mother has at least one support person in her life on a daily or weekly basis. It is helpful to find a mother and baby support group to be able to talk about all the issues of caring for a new baby or to connect with other new mothers. Many hospitals provide mother and baby support groups.
Moms, don’t be afraid to tell your support persons what your needs are. Many people want to help you but do not know how to do that. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. You need to be cared for so you can care for your baby. If you are feeling sadness and depression, it is not your fault. Please do not blame yourself. It is treatable.
Support people, make sure you check on how mom is feeling and watch mom for signs of stress. Ask mom, “How are you doing?” “How are you really feeling?” “It is OK to feel you can’t handle everything right now.”
If the feelings of depression continue longer than two weeks or get worse, it is important to talk to your doctor. Sometimes medication is used temporarily for the treatment of postpartum depression. You can find help where you live.
I work with families to help them get the maximum amount of sleep during those early newborn days and beyond. A baby that sleeps well is a happier baby, which leads to a well-rested and happier mother.